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Cycling has never been so cool. Whether you’re doing it for fitness, to beat the traffic on your daily commute, or simply because you love exploring the world on two pedal-powered wheels, your smartphone is the new number one cycling accessory.
Some apps provide more in-depth information than a Tour de France drug test, others can help you find the best cycling routes, and some will really save your skin (or what you have left) in an emergency.
Here are the best apps of the bunch for the iPhone cyclist. If you use Android, we’ve already rounded up the best cycling apps for your platform.
Cycle Computers & Route Trackers
Frequently evangelised as the best iPhone cycling app, Cyclemeter was a premium solution not so long ago that’s now turned free with a yearly $4.99 “Elite” upgrade. The core functionality is the same for all users: the ability to track your workout using your phone’s on-board sensors and provide detailed feedback about your performance.
It’s a simple app to use that will absolutely drown you in information, and provides integration with Strava, MyFitnessPal, and of course, Facebook and Twitter too. The app is frequently praised for how light it is on battery, with many users surprised how little the app uses even after riding all day (still, you might want to power-up your bike to charge your phone as you ride)
Upgrading to Elite provides advertisement-free access, an Apple Watch app, terrain and traffic information from Google, the ability to share directly to Cyclemeter and post your workout online and use of sensors and external accessories among many, many other smaller tweaks. The app also advertises itself as a tracker for running, walking, skating, skiing, and many other outdoor pursuits — though it arguably is best for those most at home on two wheels.
Like Cyclemeter, Strava’s reputation precedes it — so much so that it’s practically a verb to most cyclists and has become the most popular way to log, share, and compare your rides with friends. Just like Cyclemeter, the Strava app offers cyclists a way of recording their (or other predefined) routes along with information like distance, pace, speed, and calories burned.
The service owes much of its success to the sense of community it has built, acting not only as a way to log and share your rides but also interact with, compete against, and even meet up with other cyclists. This community participation allows you to follow friends, join monthly challenges, and even find crowd-sourced popular places to ride.
The app features a premium plan for $5.99 per month or $59.99 a year, which provides weekly goals, more in-depth analysis of your training, real-time friend notifications, premium gear, discounts, and other member-only content. It’s worth noting you can also post to Strava from a whole host of third-party apps (like Cyclemeter, above).
Even if you’ve just bought your first bike, there’s a good chance you’ve dabbled with RunKeeper before; and if you haven’t, you’ve probably heard the name. The app is one of the best ways to track physical activity, whether it’s running, walking, weight training, cycling, or any other way you happen to work up a sweat.
Just like any other physical activity tracker, RunKeeper keeps an eye on your speed, distance, pace, elevation, calories burned, and other information using GPS and other sensors in your iPhone and Apple Watch. One reason to choose RunKeeper over a dedicated cycling solution like Cyclemeter would be an affinity for a range of sports, and a desire to keep all of your exercise logs in the same place.
RunKeeper is also able to train you with training plans, connect to external sensors like heart rates monitors and sync with HealthKit, MyFitnessPal, Fitbit, Garmin devices, and more. Premium subscriptions will run you $9.99 a month or $39.99 for a year, and for that, you’ll get an ad-free user experience, the ability to compare your workouts and see changes over time, premium training plans, real time tracking, and a personal goal coach (probably not curated by real people, though).
Yet another progress tracker, just like the other apps listed above, except this one is from MapMyFitness and is only one of a whole suite of apps that track you working up a sweat. MapMyRide is slightly different in that it stresses compatibility with over 400 external devices, so if you’ve brought some sort of smart cadence, heart beat or other sensor, MapMyRide is probably compatible with it.
The app also has the ability to track information using the usual methods to build a complete picture of your distance, speed, duration, split times, calories burned, and so on. Any devices you connect will also add to this information and be recorded within MapMyRide, where it can also be shared to MyFitnessPal and Apple’s Health app for better tracking.
There’s a community aspect to MapMyRide, complete with a Facebook-like activity feed that lists what you and your friends are up to. You can even join challenges, climb leaderboards, and compete for prizes. Pay the $5.99 a month or $29.99 a year for “MVP” access and lose the advertisements, access heart rate analysis, audio coaching, and personal training plans.
Navigational & Riding Aids
Google Maps (free)
I want to recommend Google Maps as the go-to cycle mapping solution, but due to Google crippling the app on iOS, it falls just short of the mark. That said, if you’re taking your smartphone out on a ride, you’d be silly not to have Google Maps at your disposal, particularly in “Cycling” mode.
Accessible from the menu, Google’s “Cycling” view shows all dedicated and shared cycle routes in varying shades of green. Darker green means an isolated bike path, lighter green indicates a cycle path on a shared road. What’s more, you can even use Google Maps to plan a route for you via the best cycle routes — just hit the bike icon before routing.
Unfortunately (despite Google Maps supporting the feature via My Maps), there’s no way to plan routes on your computer or other device and send them to Google Maps for iOS. You can’t create custom routes in-app either (and there’s no “My Maps” app for iOS like there is for Android). So until Google sorts it out, you’ll be stuck using Maps for automatic routing and orientation.
Unlike Google Maps, CycleMaps is a dedicated route-planning tool. It also functions as a cycle computer, allowing you to track speed, distance, and route taken — depending on what you’re doing. Just like Google’s solution, CycleMaps also creates routes that favour bicycle-friendly paths and low-intensity roads .
For those of you who like to plan your itineraries in advance, CycleMaps allows you to create your own routes with as many waypoints as you like and will even allow you to import routes via .GPX and .KML file imports. This means you can plan your route in another app entirely (like Google Earth) and then export it to CycleMaps and ride.
The app is free but supported by advertising, which can be removed by a one-time in-app purchase of $3.99. While using the app, you can choose between Google Maps, Apple Maps, and the OpenCycleMap project, and you can even access and control the app from your Apple Watch.
CoachMyRide [No Longer Available]
CoachMyRide is an app that does exactly what it says on the tin, providing coaching and tips for budding cyclists who are serious about the sport. This app isn’t really for the “sometimes cyclist” or the city sightseer, but those “serious amateurs” who want to push themselves but find that a real cycling coach is just too expensive.
For $7, you get 105 structured cycling workouts across various skill levels and durations covering 12 different “topics” of training, including overall endurance, high cadence intervals, climbing efficiency, and muscular endurance. Each topic comes with a heap of documentation and coaching tips to work your way through.
Workouts include progressive warm up and cool down sessions and are centered around tried and tested interval training. The app is entirely personalized to you, allowing you to input your own level of fitness and work up to the harder levels.
If you or a friend gets hurt, it can really pay to have a decent first aid app at your disposal. In particular, the British, Australian, and American Red Cross have independent apps, and St. John Ambulance has even produced a first aid app just for cyclists (but annoyingly, it’s not available globally on the App Store).
We could spend hours figuring out which is the best, so just make sure you have a couple of these handy:
- First Aid For Cyclists (St. John Ambulance)
- British, Australian or American Red Cross First Aid (Red Cross)
Remember: Smartphone first aid apps save lives, but first aid training is even more effective.
Bike Doctor ($4.99)
Created by Andreas Kambanis of London Cyclist fame, Bike Doctor is an app that tries to make it as easy as possible to learn everything you need to know about repairing bikes. The app stresses ease of use and approachability, so you don’t necessarily need very much experience with an allen key in order fix your fixie.
Among the many fixes covered Bike Doctor, you will learn how to repair punctures, replace brake pads (including disc brakes), adjust gears, true wheels, bleed cables, and fit a new chain. You’ll save money on bike shop repairs, learn a thing or two about early detection, and before long, you’ll be the bicycle maestro all your friends turn to for advice.
Bike Repair ($3.99)
Bike Repair is another app designed to give you a helping hand when it comes to repairing your own bicycle. The app isn’t quite as focused on maintenance as Bike Doctor, incorporating weather guides, a parts list with history of maintenance, and even a search engine that compares price from 11 different online retailers at the same time.
The maintenance aspect takes the form of 58 detailed photo repair guides, though it’s worth adding that these don’t seem quite as beginner-friendly as those found in the Bike Doctor. The app also comes with advice for beating common problems with shifters, derailleurs, rubbing brakes, problem pedals, and more.
Do you go everywhere on two wheels? What are your favorite cycling apps?